Media and Civil Society in Crisis Conference – DIT Aungier Street May 12th

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In March 2010 the independent Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland, working in conjunction with the Carnegie (UK) Trust, published a report into the future of civil society – Making Good Society. One of the key aspects of that report was an enquiry into the relationship between civil society associations (CSAs) and the media, including an initial consideration of the Irish context. On May 12th 2010 Dublin Institute of Technology’s School of Media and the Centre for Media Studies at NUI Maynooth will host a conference on the changing relationship between civil society organisations and the media in the DIT campus on Aungier Street.

The aim is to explore both the historical relationship between these two entities, and the challenges and opportunities of a changed and changing communications environment.

The conference is for those working in the media and in civil society organisations, as well as other interested parties. There will be a strong focus on discussion and deliberation, with all attendees being encouraged to contribute their views and experiences in the open discussion sessions that will be held throughout the day.

We are pleased to welcome a range of expert speakers from both media and civil society organisations. They will be addressing the following topics:

  • Changing communications practices: CSAs and their relationship with the mainstream media

  • Communicating directly with your audience online: promise or threat?

  • Coming to terms with a new communications environment: adaptation and resistance within organizations

  • Imagining the future: audience fragmentation, disengagement and the decline of trusted brands – what will CSAs do to get their message heard?

If you wish to attend, please RSVP to eadaoin.osullivanATstudentDOTditDOTie (replace AT with @ and DOT with .)

To download a copy of the Commission report, go to the Making Good Society section of the Carnegie UK Trust website.

Context and overview

The boom in the Irish economy, and therefore in state finances, saw the development of a ‘social partnership’ model that involved not simply negotiations on national wage agreements, but also the development of a pillar of voluntary and community organisations. This structure oversaw the increased funding of many NGOs and their integration into a loose alliance of policy development, advocacy and research bodies that included both state and civil-society actors. This occasionally led to tensions, most notably the dispute between Action from Ireland (Afri) and the Department of Foreign Affairs about whether the NGO used any of its Irish Aid funding to campaign against the Nice Treaty in 2002.

However, it is arguable that by and large much of ‘civil society’ was relatively quiescent during this period of considerable state support. Many of the same organisations now find themselves in crisis, both in their funding and in terms of their mission, as a state with deepening budget deficits deems them surplus to requirements.

Perhaps coincident with this crisis, perhaps because of it, many NGOs and Civil Society Associations (CSOs) are looking for new ways to get their message across, and new ways to both involve the public and to mobilise them around various causes through the use of broadcast and online media in different shapes and forms.

The current crisis notwithstanding, the move to explore new avenues of communication and mobilisation would have been of central importance to campaigning, awareness-raising and political engagement. At the present moment it is imperative that civil society actors engage in a thorough-going examination of their existing communication strategies and of the potential future possibilities and pitfalls of the online medium.

To that end, the proposed seminar intends to bring together interested participants from Irish civil society organisations and the field of Irish communications research to discuss past, present and future communications policies and approaches, while also situating the discussions in their historical and contemporary contexts.